Imagine wandering down a bustling street in Milan or Rome. You come across a crowded little bistro, frequented by locals and visitors alike. Miraculously, there’s one empty table and you swiftly claim it. Looking around the animated space, it’s impossible to say if it’s decades old or a warm and welcoming new establishment.
This was the vision for Etta, now perfectly at home in Brunswick East. IF Architecture began with just one foundation element: the original black and grey speckled terrazzo floor of uncertain age.
Let’s begin at the bar, a blend of flowing shapes and textures. Curvaceous countertops in fine-grain marble sourced from the quarries at Chillagoe in Queensland, a jigsaw of greys and reds with swirls of black. Solid rounded legs provide support, concrete rendered to marry with the terrazzo floor. Soft curves, arches and rounded edges are repeated throughout the space.
Around the bar stand tall and thin low-backed ‘Iva’ stools, named after their designer, Iva Foschia. A wide burgundy cushioned banquette is framed in bronze pearl steel, with room for patrons to sit either side. The walls throughout are unadorned. A mix of raw cement sheet, spaced to emphasise the shadow lines of the joins, or solid plaster with French wash to create a patina of soft aging.
A long dining bench extends from the open kitchen, topped with Australian Emperor marble from the Pilbara in flowing patterns of dark and light green marble. The green palette is later mirrored in the intimate cushioned dining booths, lit by an internal courtyard with ferny planters and a leafy mural painted by Melbourne artist Robert Bowers. The marble bench, built to seat 10, extends into the main dining area, a mixture of intimate tables, both square and circular, with traditional bentwood chairs and comfortable booths.
The overall impression is of an animated space, a homage to the local area, familiar, comforting and welcoming. A place that exudes timeless authenticity and character that in truth did not exist before the project began.